The Mississippi Private Investigators Association is very proactive in ensuring that its members are highly ethical, since the state is the only one in the South and one of only five in the country that doesn’t require the licensing of PIs. The association conducts background checks on prospective members to ensure that they are of high caliber.
Richard A. Brooks, the president of the association, told The Clarion-Ledger that the state has “become a magnet for unscrupulous people wanting to work” as PIs. Anyone can buy a business license to establish him or herself as a PI and have access to databases of information on people. Even felons can currently become PIs in Mississippi.
In one case, a PI in Mississippi who had legally changed his last name to Corleone set up a married man with a woman, took photographs of them talking, and then tried to blackmail the man. State troopers pursued him, but he fled the state.
The Mississippi House unanimously passed a bill earlier in 2015 to license PIs and create a board to oversee them funded by license fees. Unfortunately, the bill never made it out of committee, since current efforts in the state are focused on reducing the number of state boards. It does seem odd that a person has to be licensed to braid hair in Mississippi, but not to perform high-level PI work.
Other states that license their PIs require things like background checks, liability insurance, and car insurance. Another advantage of licensing boards is that they give people a place to file complaints if a PI has behaved unethically. Currently, the only option in Mississippi is the Better Business Bureau.
Part of the problem of establishing PI licensing in Mississippi is that there is no public outcry on the issue. Hopefully with the efforts of professional PIs and the state government, the situation in Mississippi will change.